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datatime: 2022-12-08 01:08:00 Author:FKRxdIMp

The desert had been just such a crisis; an episode which, like the others before it, had now all but passed into the limbo of lost memories. Now Garrison could only remember the food and drink (though not the actual sensation of eating and drinking), and something of the feeling of well-being which had come afterwards. Also, something of Psychomech's feeding on him: that is to say, he knew that the Machine had somehow drawn on his strength, or that he had applied his strength so as to 'make repairs' in the Machine.

And coming awake when once more the sun had fallen upon him, he had seen that they were through the pass and that the river's bed was dry and cracked in places, and that the surrounding land was weathered into strange formations here, and the Machine moved more slowly under heavy, dark and oppressive skies.

The word came and went-

Or could it be Terri herself, half-crazy with guilt, perhaps even schizoid? Wyatt remembered thinking to himself that she was taking all of this very well. Perhaps this was her get-out, her escape route from actions she could neither control nor tolerate. No, no - a fool idea. He cursed himself for his mind's illogical processing of data. How could it possibly be Terri? She had been right here with him when things started to go wrong. And so on, chasing his thoughts in a circle - but only for a few minutes, until common-sense took over.

The word came and went-

One sure way to check for outside interference would be, quite simply, to search the house from top to bottom. And after that, if he found nothing and no one - which he suspected would be the case, for if there were a human adversary at work here he must be extremely clever and unlikely to let himself be discovered - then Wyatt must simply deny him access to the room of the machine, which he could do easily enough.

As a boy he had been shut in. He remembered it now, remembered how it frightened him. The cupboard under the stairs, the spiders which he had known inhabited that place, the unknown or forgotten sin (against what or whom he could not say) which had prompted his punishment. Oh, yes, he remembered it. The sin itself might be forgotten, but the darkness, the stifling closeness, the Scuttlers in the Shadows - these things he remembered. ..

Not before that time and never since, until now, had Garrison suffered claustrophobia.

Koenig? The German manservant seemed most eligible, Wyatt had to admit. He could have gone to Germany, turned around and flown straight back. He could be here right now, looking after his master's interests as always. But if he was here, and if he knew what was going on, why didn't he just come right on out of the woodwork, free Garrison and make an accusation?

And that, he told himself, is that

Koenig? The German manservant seemed most eligible, Wyatt had to admit. He could have gone to Germany, turned around and flown straight back. He could be here right now, looking after his master's interests as always. But if he was here, and if he knew what was going on, why didn't he just come right on out of the woodwork, free Garrison and make an accusation?

But between times, in the room of the machine...

Someone, some unknown but very real and physical one, had somehow been in here and turned down the fear-stimulation controls, releasing Garrison from his nightmares. Someone was here, in this very house, right now. It was crazy, ridiculous, but it was the only solution.

He went downstairs. Terri would be here in a little over four hours. By then everything must be under control; Garrison dead, all records completely up to date, and Wyatt's own nerves steady once more. He had work to do. But first a wash and a shave, then coffee. Lots of strong, black coffee.

He searched everywhere. Up and downstairs, the cellar, the attic, all the larger cupboards. Not only was there no one there, there were nq signs that anyone had been there ...

And yet... it had been attempted Most certainly. And it had succeeded. Garrison's weight was up.

Things had started to go wrong some time ago. Garrison had known it, had instinctively sensed it, that

draining feeling which came whenever the Machine suffered a power loss; and he had been powerless to do anything about it. It seemed that Psychomech could only help him - and conversely that he could only help the Machine - in a real crisis.

Just after 4.00 A.M. Wyatt returned to the machine room, gave Garrison an opiate booster, turned up fear-stimulation to the full and jammed the controls firmly in that position. Then, leaving the room, he padlocked the door and pocketed the keys.

And coming awake when once more the sun had fallen upon him, he had seen that they were through the pass and that the river's bed was dry and cracked in places, and that the surrounding land was weathered into strange formations here, and the Machine moved more slowly under heavy, dark and oppressive skies.

And coming awake when once more the sun had fallen upon him, he had seen that they were through the pass and that the river's bed was dry and cracked in places, and that the surrounding land was weathered into strange formations here, and the Machine moved more slowly under heavy, dark and oppressive skies.

The word came and went-

Not before that time and never since, until now, had Garrison suffered claustrophobia.

He went downstairs. Terri would be here in a little over four hours. By then everything must be under control; Garrison dead, all records completely up to date, and Wyatt's own nerves steady once more. He had work to do. But first a wash and a shave, then coffee. Lots of strong, black coffee.

Which meant that there must be someone else in the house.

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